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Mutton Cove and its Shipwrecks

Home > Adelaide > Escape the City | Family | Free | Fun Things To Do | Outdoor
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published September 5th 2013
Find history in a swamp
mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
The Remains of the MV Excelsior


Mutton Cove is an isolated and desolate area on the tip of the LeFevre Peninsula just 23 kilometres north west of Adelaide. It consists mainly of saltmarsh and is bounded by the sea and land used for heavy industry.

The Mutton Cove Conservation Reserve is under the care and control of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) and has had a management plan prepared in 2003. Surprisingly the Department's website makes no reference to Mutton Cove other than about the shipwrecks, although it receives some federal funding to maintain it.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Car Park and Entry to Mutton Cove


The area is quite grim, particularly on the squally wet day when I visited. Discreet signage announces the car park and an entry to the reserve although the entry was blocked off by safety netting at the time.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
An Industrial Complex Near Mutton Cove


While it is renown as a migratory bird habitat the dominant sounds on the breeze were an incessant beeping from vehicles in a distant industrial complex, and the constant clanking of heavy machinery. Perhaps on a weekend it may be more peaceful.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Rest Under High Tension Powerlines


Turning left at the park entry took me on a path to seating and an interpretive sign near a massive electricity grid tower.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Torrens Island Quarantine Station & Power Station


The land is mostly covered by very low shrubs and pools of sea water, with occasional clumps of slightly taller vegetation. Looking east across Light Passage Torrens Island Quarantine Station is visible, and the chimneys of the power station.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Australian Submarine Corporation in the Distance


To the south the massive area of the Australian Submarine Corporation yards are visible, while looking west across more saltmarsh the view is of industrial tanks and gantries.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
The Shipwreck Remains


Walking further north along the path brings me to the destination of many visitors - the rusting remains of the steamer Excelsior built in 1897. Compared to the shipwrecks of Jervois Basin, the Excelsior is easily visible and accessible to within a few metres.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Possible Funnels From the Excelsior


After working in New South Wales and Tahiti the Excelsior was bought in 1908 by South Australian flour millers, then later by the South Australian Farmers Union. After being sold in 1933 to the SA Harbors Board it was used as a coal hulk to supply dredges until being abandoned in Mutton Cove in 1945.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Saltmarsh at Mutton Cove


Another shipwreck was also abandoned at Mutton Bay in the 1940's - the paddle steamer Jupiter, assembled at Port Adelaide in 1866. Originally built as an iron barge, it was later converted for use as a paddle steamer. For around 70 years it operated on the Murray and Darling rivers transporting goods and up to 164 passengers.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
An Interpretive Sign Describes the Environment


In 1933 the Jupiter was converted to a crayfish depot at Birkenhead and moored at Outer Harbour. Fishing ships would discharge their catch of crayfish into the flooded well of the Jupiter, which could hold up to 10,000 crayfish and keep them fresh until needed by the market. Finally around 1945, it was abandoned to decay at Mutton Cove.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Under the Power Tower


For more information read this well researched article by Steve Reynolds at the Marine Life Society of South Australia website.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
The Stern of The Excelsior


The remains of the PS Jupiter are mostly buried in mud, and lie about 500 metres south of the Excelsior.

The path continues through the park some considerable distance past the shipwreck, but due to bad weather I wasn't able to see more of it.

mutton cove, shipwrecks, park, conservation park, environment, adelaide, saltmarsh, crayfish
Industrial Tanks Advance on the Wreck


If you simply want to see the remains of the Excelsior rather than visit the remainder of the Mutton Cove Conservation Reserve, it's possible to park your car near the north end of Archie Badenoch Circuit where the wreck is only a short walk away. You can find more photos taken in the park on Flickr.

If you have children with you, perhaps visit the nearby Lady Ruthven Reserve afterward - there is a new playground there, and it's a good place to see ships arriving at Outer Harbor.
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Why? Explore hidden Adelaide
When: Anytime
Where: Pelican Point Rd Osborne SA 5017
Cost: Free
Your Comment
I never thought I would consider putting 'shipwreck' and 'impressive' in the same sentence, but that shipwreck really does look impressive.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11368) 1445 days ago
Looks v. interesting Dave. Love that first shot.
by Natasha Stewart (score: 4|10035) 1443 days ago
Probably a good idea to come armed with mosquito repellent too... Great article Dave - good to know someone can see and appreciate the beauty and history in such a place as Mutton Cove.
by Jenny (score: 3|1573) 1444 days ago
Your photography is absolutely flawless! And your review, as usual, is excellently written, Dave :)
by Tema (score: 2|721) 1331 days ago
What an unusual area - not where you'd expect to find a shipwreck at all!
by Karina Bryer (score: 2|247) 1444 days ago
Great article Dave love a shipwreck! Debbie
by mehid (score: 2|131) 1444 days ago
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